If you are an ambitious executive assistant, you’re likely to be hoping to develop your skills and become a top-level senior business partner EA. It’s an attractive career proposition, because you have the chance to make a significant contribution towards the leadership and growth of the company. Not to mention the high salaries you can command as a senior EA. But if you’re not quite at this level, how do you get there? It takes a strategic career plan.
Take an audit of your skills
If you want to step up in your career, consider your skills. What are your strengths, and what do you still have to learn? Perhaps you’re extremely organised, but you’re not familiar with the latest SaaS tools like Asana, Slack or Clickup. Or perhaps you’re a great communicator, but you need to work on confidence or people-pleasing tendencies. Understanding the gaps in your CV is the first step towards improving and developing your skills and confidence.
Network with senior EAs and recruiters
If there are senior EAs in your organisation or network to speak with, reach out and request a conversation, either in person or via direct message. You can ask them about:
their career path
how they grew into a senior role
the skills they suggest you develop
advice they have for you on getting to the next level
Recruiters can also be extremely helpful. I always take time to chat with EAs about their career path. Ask for honest feedback about your skills and experience and recommendations for how you can advance your career. I love to help ambitious EAs build their career and I’d be happy to speak with you and give you frank advice about taking the next step.
Create a three year plan
Executive assistants don’t stroll into senior roles with leading Australian companies. They understand that it takes time to build a career. So approach your next move with that mindset. If it moves you along your career path to your ultimate goal, it’s worthwhile. Perhaps you will need to spend a year or so in a role further developing your skills with study or gaining experience in an industry until you make it to your ideal role, industry and executive. Approaching it as a stepping stone, rather than a single giant leap will help propel you forward.
Get clear about success
Your plan should specify your dream role and the steps you will take to achieve it. One trait that top-level EAs have in common is they choose to work for companies aligned to their interests and values. So consider what industry appeals to you — corporate, creative, government, technology, and so on. Understanding the industries you do (and do not) want to work for will help guide your next steps. Similarly, knowing the values that matter to you and finding organisations that share those values will help you find fulfilment in your career. Perhaps you feel strongly about sustainability. Or you want to work for a harmonious workplace culture. Or you thrive in a fast-paced dynamic setting. Or prefer the peace and quiet of a calm environment. Knowing those values and priorities will help you identify the perfect match.
Work on mindset
I see many EAs with fantastic resumes, who sadly lack a sense of confidence and self belief. Regrettably, this can hold you back from advancing your career. It’s important to work on your mindset and start seeing yourself as an in-demand executive assistant specialist with a lot of skills and experience to offer. The high-performing EAs I recruit have often done the work to gain self-confidence and it’s evident in their manner, their presence and their behaviour. They’re not arrogant, but they respect themselves and everyone else around them. They are very clear about what they want, communicate extremely well and set personal boundaries. That’s what makes them such excellent EAs. So if you are struggling with mindset issues, do the work necessary to gain more self-belief. On the flip side, I also occasionally encounter candidates who are overly confident — they mistakenly think they know it all, but they are sadly deceiving themselves. You need to strike a balance between being unnecessarily or high in your self esteem.
Improve your visibility, especially on LinkedIn
Recruiters like me are regularly searching for candidates on LinkedIn, so you want to be found. You don’t have to be a content creator with thousands of followers, but it doesn’t hurt to have a profile that is searchable. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile shows you to your best advantage, including the title ‘executive assistant’ in your bio, as this is a keyword recruiters will search. Listing your skills, experience and achievements to make you an appealing candidate to recruiters. Demonstrate that you are a company player by sharing content from your employer from time to time. Build your connections with industry so you start to gain a bit of a profile. And add connections with recruiters so they can easily reach out to you if opportunities arise.
EAs may worry that their current employer may notice them updating their LinkedIn profile. So by staying active on LinkedIn and making gradual changes you can avoid causing unnecessary panic.
Would you like feedback from a specialist EA recruiter?
Often it can be difficult to know what areas you need to develop to take it to the next level. If you’d like a confidential discussion with me, where I can identify the gaps in your CV and recommend the skills and experience you need to develop, please email me at email@example.com and I will be happy to assist you.